It’s my birthday! So for the next hour until certain someones starts demanding all my attention I can do whatever I want! Maybe go rock climbing, try out some extreme ironing or blog in my nightgown with a steamy cup of coffee. You can see where this is headed…
Why not celebrate the anniversary of my birth by writing of my eventual demise? Mary at Better than Eden did it so well, I can’t help myself but copycat her idea. So not only are these my final wishes, they’re my birthday wishes so disobey them at your own peril! (I mean, I don’t believe in ghosts but if St. Theresa can throw some roses your way, I can hurl some thorns from purgatory out of spite if I need to.)
1. Do not embalm or embellish me in any way and put me on display like a wax dummy. I will not look peaceful or “like I’m sleeping” or “in a better place.” No, placing me under rose lights will not help. I have enough selfies in my Instagram account. Remember me that way, with a cider in my hand, a child on my lap or my tongue sticking out.
2. I want a full Requiem High Mass. There will be somber music, my casket in the center aisle draped with a black pall, black vestments, all of it. This is not “a celebration of my life”, this is the ultimate prayer for my soul. No funny eulogies during the ceremony, just a reminder that we have but one purpose in this life before we return to ashes. Do I expect the service to make some people uncomfortable? Undoubtedly. And if the thought of dwelling on death at a funeral makes you too sad to attend, don’t bother showing up for finger sandwiches at the luncheon. (And they’re going to be awesome and gluten-free so I think you should suck it up and go.)
This is long, and I don’t require a full orchestra, but you can’t beat Mozart for a Requiem Mass. You’ll get the idea after the first couple minutes.
3. In leu of flowers, just give my family money to pay for this Mass and have other Masses said for my soul and that of my family. Yes, really. I’m pretty sure my behavior in this life is going to warrant a layover in purgatory.
4. Like Mary, I think the Trappist coffins are the way to go, that is unless Tony goes all Hank Hill and makes our coffins for fun some time. Don’t be swayed by the funeral home; I don’t need a cushy interior or air tight seal because I’m freaking dead and don’t care. What’s it matter if I become compost now or later?
5. I want a nice tombstone, in a nice Catholic cemetery so my descendants can easily find it and enjoy coming to visit and say prayers for me. There is a Catholic cemetery just walking distance from my in-laws where I like to stroll. People are always there laying flowers, or visiting their relatives. Don’t forget about me. I mean, don’t put Jack O’Lanterns and Christmas lights on my grave but come and visit when you’re able. Especially November 2 when you’ll get an indulgence.
6. After I’m laid to rest, go have a nice luncheon together and then when all the stodgy old people are gone, hit up an Irish Pub and swap stories. Have a drink, have lots of drinks, sing loudly, laugh, cry, shut down the bar and remember me as only a drunken mob can. And every year, on the anniversary of my death, pray for me, lift a glass and laugh in remembrance.
I approach death like everything else in my life, with a Catholic sensibility a sense of humor. I’ve also read Last Rights and The American Way of Death Revisited and highly recommend both. Although it freaks out the children to know their mama reads about death, I see no reason not to study up on something so universal and unavoidable.
Today, I celebrate my life; tomorrow is always an uncertainty. Thank you Lord for another year and every day hereafter You bless me with. May my life always give You glory and bring me, and my family, closer to heaven.